John McNeill's book, Taking a Chance on God, is that a gay identity is fully compatible with a rich Christian faith. McNeill argues that the church's rejection of homosexuality is based on a pathological relationship with God that is based on fear. He argues that the Christian God of love is completely incompatible with this God of fear, and that both tradition and scripture support relationships between people of the same sex.
Ethically, McNeill's book argues that all human relationships based on love are morally good, including homosexual relationships, and implies that the church should fully include homosexuals. McNeill's arguments are marred by his reliance on the historical interpretation of the Bible, and rejection of other views as simply inaccurate, literal interpretations. Ultimately, McNeill's argument that homosexuality is biologically determined by God is convincing, and suggests that his proposal that homosexuals should be fully included in the church should become public policy.
The subtitle of McNeill's book, "Liberating Theology for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Lovers, Families, and Friends" gives a clear indication of the scope and intended audience for his book. From the beginning, it is clear that McNeill's book is intended to help homosexuals and their loved ones better understand how theology can be seen from a gay perspective. McNeill is never apologetic about homosexuality, and Taking a Chance on God is in no way a justification of the presence of homosexuals in Christianity. Instead, McNeill simply assumes that gays and lesbians are present in the church, and interested in how to relate to theology. As such, Taking a Chance on God is a sort of primer for gays and lesbians who want to get the most out of their relationship with Christianity, rather than a defense of homosexuality in the church.
McNeill is clearly qualified to write a book about the relationship of homosexuality and the church. An ordained priest, McNeill is a former Jesuit who was expelled from the Society of Jesus in 1987 because he violated the Vatican's wishes that he not speak about homosexuality and that he should refrain from ministering to gay men and lesbians. He is a practicing psychotherapist, giving him a unique insight into the psychological aspects of homosexuality and religion. Academically, McNeill received a doctorate in philosophy from Belgium's Louvain University, and has taught theology and philosophy at Union Theological seminary, and Fordham University. In addition, he is the author of the books, The Church and the Homosexual, and Freedom, Glorious Freedom (1988).
McNeill draws on his insights taken from counseling gay and lesbian individuals, the insights of the liberation movement for homosexuals, as well as the Catholic, Evangelical, and Protestant faiths to create a better understanding of the role of homosexuals in the church. The result is a well-researched and interesting discussion about the relationship between homosexuality and Christianity.
The central thesis of McNeill's book is that a personal gay identity is compatible with a rich and full Christian faith. McNeill sees the homosexual community as a vital and important part of the greater spiritual tapestry.
McNeill argues that much of the church's rejection of homosexuality is based on the practice of a pathological type of religion. He suggests that this type of religion is based on a relationship with God that is grounded in fear. As such, homophobic priests often argue that God's wrath will come down upon gays and lesbians, and that fear should motivate homosexuals to give up their homosexual life.
Importantly, McNeill notes that the Christian God of love is wholly incompatible with the pathological type of religion practiced by those who focus on God's wrath. He notes "Such a service of fear would blaspheme the Christian God of love." He also notes that holding onto such pathological belief systems does great psychological damage to many individuals. Further, McNeill argues this pathological belief system is a real impediment to the spiritual maturity of many homosexuals. Much of this harm comes from the pathological belief system that is "deeply embedded in the unconscious results in feelings of fear, guilt, and shame, and in many cases has been both the primary source of resistance to psychological healing and the principal obstacle to spiritual maturity."
Homosexuality is simply one of many things that is given, or decided by God, argues McNeill. He notes, "that human beings do not choose their sexual orientation;…